Friday, September 04, 2009

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Tip of the hat to Ben And Jerry.
2) There's some reason to consider living in Madison, WI.
3) The new terror weapon: ass bombs.
4) Own a piece of rock history, for only $300,000. When the housing market firms up, I'm betting you could double your money.
5) In real news, things are heating up in Afghanistan. Again. Of course, maybe calling in an airstrike on a fuel tanker is a bad idea...
6) And unemployment is creeping up towards ten percent, as corporations try to boost profits on the backs of working families.
7) Needless to say, the Republicans blame Obama.
8) In truth, they should look to their own warped philosophies.
9) Could you ever have imagined a speech by a President about staying in school creating an uproar amongst the low-normals????
10) And, some bad news about global climate change. Right. Let's get our kids to quit school early so they can destroy our planet further thru ignorance.
11) I have to end this on a happy, or at least funny, note: this brings a whole new level of meaning to "three-legged races".

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Drumbeat For A Public Option

The truth is that government, for all its flaws, manages to do some things right, so that today few people doubt the wisdom of public police or firefighters. And the government has a particularly good record in medical care.


A study by the Rand Corporation concluded that compared with a national sample, Americans treated in veterans hospitals "received consistently better care across the board, including screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up." The difference was particularly large in preventive medicine: veterans were nearly 50 percent more likely to receive recommended care than Americans as a whole.

"If other health care providers followed the V.A.'s lead, it would be a major step toward improving the quality of care across the U.S. health care system," Rand reported.

That's the Rand Corporation, folks. Not SEIU. Not ACORN. Not the DNC. The Rand Corporation, an objective, non-profit think tank. Formed by the US DoD, I might add.
Government is designed to do the Big Things: national highway system, defense, interstate commerce, natural resource protection, coastal protection, creating a national energy policy, installing the national electric grid, dams, coordinated air traffic control.
Healthcare should not only be among those, it should be at the top of the list. And while, at this point, any healthcare reform, even if it's just reforming the insurance we pay for privately, is welcome, there is absolutely no reason, none whatsoever, that single payer coverage should not be the law of the land.
Period. Forget the "public option," it should be a "private option" if you don't want to be on the National Health Service.
I urge President Obama in his speech tonight to raise the issue and to defend and deflate the inevitable ignorant attacks from the fear-mongerers of the right, funded largely by insurers and the AMA, nipping this dissent in the bud. He should produce and present a cogent and organized outline of a public health plan that would help us prevent disease rather than treat it, provide for mental health treatment (the average mortality rate of people diagnosed with mental health issues is 25 years shorter than those undiagnosed), and give Americans the promise of the Declaration of Independence: "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness".

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Lesson In Populism

California's wildfires are not only burning trees – they're burning state cash, and setting off a cascade of other problems in the state. Already, as the fires appeared to have spread in the past 24 hours, they have delayed a ballot count in two special elections.

Let's focus on the "cash" aspect. California has had major budget woes this year already, mostly due to the facts with respect to the overall poor economy, as well as the plummet in property values.
If California had been allowed under state law to have its taxes, particularly its property taxes, indexed over the past twenty to thirty years, this crisis would have been far more manageable.
You might recall, if you are of a certain age, an asshole named Howard Jarvis. Jarvis is the asshat credited with "Proposition 13," a particularly moronic piece of "citizen activism" that forced California to freeze its property tax rates at 1% (One. Percent.) of the assessed value of the property. This created an immediate average property tax cut of 57% statewide, and a blooming deficit in couty and municipal coffers for eternity, ad nauseum.
This is why, for instance, Los Angeles among many other cities and towns, is under constant threat of default, dragging California as a whole down that path a few times already.
In a juxtaposition of irony, Californians have been hurt by Prop 13 in a booming housing market as it creates a disincentive to sell (the property taxed is indexed to the resale value, not the assessed value), while also creating a desperate housing market in an era of "buy as many homes as you want".
And now, those same homes that have been coddled by Prop 13 are burning up faster than you can turn around to look, as Prop 13 tended to benefit more those older, more established areas close into downtown urban areas, like Los Angeles.
Of course, most of the people who approved Prop 13 don't live anywhere near the fire zone, so what do they care, right?
Well, see, the trouble with that logic is, the cash drain that's going to cause this enormous budget gap won't only affect LA. It will affect infrastructure repair. It will affect flood prevention and rescue (another of California's season: mud). It will affect hospitals and firefighters and police forces.
And more important, it will cut into the state's water reserves, already down to between three and six months supply. A three year long drought will do that.
Now, if there's an earthquake up near San Francisco, up in the Central Valley, and the levees break, allowing sea water into the water supplies for both Frisco and LA, it's ballgame over, and there will be a mass exodus from California, south to San Diego.
And where will your property tax freeze help there, smartypants?
Of course, no one could have forseen fire and drought in a desert, could they?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Third Musketeer: Pathos

Poor Joe Klein over at Time Magazine:

Twice in the past month, my private communications have been splashed about the internet. That such a thing would happen is unfortunate, and dishonorable, but sadly inevitable, I suppose. I ignored the first case, in which a rather pathetic woman acolyte of Greenwald's published a hyperbolic account of a conversation I had with her at a beach picnic on Cape Cod. Now, Greenwald himself has published private emails of mine that were part of a conversation taking place on a list-serve. In one of those emails, I say that Greenwald "cares not a whit for America's national security."

A few points before I go on:
1) Joe, as any long term denizen of the Internet...not the World Wide Web, but the thing that Al Gore helped Tim Berners Lee turn into that pretty little colorful Flash animated monstrosity that is the WWW, the Internet, Usenet and Listservs...any long time user of the Net will tell you that ListServs are not "private communications".
If you are dumb enough to post something on a listserv, then you deserve to have your shit called.
2) As anyone with an ounce of sense knows, a conversation with an "acolyte" is going to get reported back. And if you did not know she was an "acolyte," then maybe you should have stopped staring at her tits and started engaging your other head.
But I digress...
I can't speak for Greenwald or his position on the US military. Frankly, most of his columns bore the shit out of me, but he's a popular blogger on the left and likely enhances his prose to appeal to part of his base. My suspicion is he is not as anti-military as you want to make him out to be in your notes.
All writers write what they think their audiences want to read, particularly if they are being paid for presumably attracting a readership (thus negating any need I have to write what I think my audience wants to read...I do this for love). It's no different for Greenwald.
Or for you, Joe. I don't know the authority structure at Time, but I would imagine there is someone with one of those clickers that keeps tabs on how many eyeballs your columns attract to determine if Time is getting enough bang for its buck.
Some of us on the left think your focus is here, and not on reporting and analysis. This is sad, in my opinion. You seem like you could be a fairly bright guy who once worked hard to tell a story. Now it seems more often than not, you're rewriting someone's press release.
Left, right, center. It doesn't really matter. Sometimes, like in this column, you don't seem to want to think things through all that carefully and see if there's a different conclusion you could reach.
In this column I linked to, you posted the following note you sent to the listserv:
Therefore, I have seen no evidence that he [Greenwald] cares one whit about the national security of the United States. It is not hyperbole, it is a fact.
It's hard to prove a negative, but it seems to me that Google is your friend. One verified, pro-soldier stance is hadly "no evidence." And based on Googling "Greenwald military," it seems as though you don't want to look at his nuance. He's not attacking the military as keeping close tabs on the legality of their actions, particularly with respect to human rights not just of terror suspects but of American citizens (in particular, possible posse comitatus violations proposed by Dick Cheney).
I'd hardly call that attacking the military. Attacking an unecessary war (Iraq) is not attacking the military. Attacking Pentagon abuses is not attacking the military. Attacking power hungry politicians, the ones you chat up at cocktail parties in Georgetown, is not attacking the military. Talking about wanting to freeze military spending when the US outspends the entire world combined is not attacking the military.
It's taking a rational stand athwart history, pleading for sanity.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out, Dick!

Well, well, well...I can't imagine why he'd be up in arms over this, can you?
Former Vice President Dick Cheney lashed out at President Obama and the attorney general on Sunday, saying the Justice Department's recent decision to investigate whether CIA operatives broke the law in their interrogation of terrorism suspects was politically motivated and dangerous to U.S. national security.

"I just think it's an outrageous political act that will do great damage long-term to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs, make difficult decisions, without having to worry about what the next administration is going to say," Cheney said in an interview that aired on " Fox News Sunday."

The formal interview, conducted last week at Cheney's Wyoming ranch, was his first since Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. announced last Monday that he was conducting a preliminary review into the actions of certain CIA interrogators who might have gone beyond the techniques approved by the Bush administration's Justice Department.

Of course, an effective administration investigates its own wrong-doing, as how Janet Reno did under Bill Clinton, so Cheney has a point to make: any investigation should have rightly been carried out under the Bush DoJ.

Which seemed to have issues with indicting a ham sandwich, to stretch the famous analogy.

Or Congress could have, as it did in the early 70s for President Nixon's crimes, the 80s for Iran-Contra, and the 90s for the Lewinski affair.

I don't know about you, but my instinct tells me CIA agents violating international treaties probably ranks higher on the crime scale than a blow job.

But I digress...

It is true that, in none of the above scenarios was the investigation of a previous administration left as the dirty work for the next group of bureaucrats.

But then no administration, in conjunction with a Congress best described as "whorish to the self-interests of the administration," had ever had such an abysmal record of dictatorial, almost tyrannical, abuses of authority as the Bush administration, which includes ignoring the fact it might have been breaking the law.

It was, in short, a perfect storm of corruption and scandal, with a "look the other way" mentality that was at once abhorrent and antithetical to the good and welfare of the nation.

In shorter, it was the blind leading the deaf leading the dumb.

The dumb being us.

There are higher issues at stake here than whether some rogue CIA agents violated even the very liberal torture policies of an autocrat. There are issues that go to the very heart of what we stand for as a nation: do we allow torture so blatantly (because no one believes the US is always right and always innocent) or do we shove it back in that dark corner where we occasionally get upset at the things done in the name of freedom?

For that, and that reason alone, Dick Cheney should shut the fuck up.